Right now, traffic on the NIH Paylines & Resources and NIH Discussion pages is all about what does my impact score mean and will I get funded. Most funding decisions are a long way off, though, since 1) the NIH is currently operating under FY10 budget levels; 2) there is a mid-term election coming up (everyone get out & vote!); and 3) results of this election will likely affect whether the NIH gets the recommended 3% increase, a lesser increase, or even a cut in appropriation.
The current Continuing Resolution will keep the federal government operating at FY10 levels through December 3rd. Last year, a non-election year, the omnibus FY10 appropriations bills were passed by Congress and signed by the President in December. However, the CR could well be extended through the start of the new Congress next January. Keep in mind, though, that FY07, which encompassed the 2006 mid-terms, was managed under a CR all year. Not surprisingly, the ICs must be conservative in making funding decisions until they know how much money they have to play with … and will be especially conservative this year with even more unknowns in the equation.
Where do things stand? The Labor/HHS/Education Appropriation Bill, which funds the NIH budget, includes $1B increase for the NIH … but came out of Committee last July along partisan lines (18-12 vote) and has not been considered by the House. The Senate Committee report is of interest in that it lays out Senate interest in specific areas of research at each IC, such as a request to fund liver cancer SPOREs, an increase in funding for stroke research (“The Committee is concerned that the NIH continues to invests only 1% of its budget on stroke research”), and a “networked pediatric research consortia model”. The Report includes only one item under NIGMS that probably would not immediately come to mind for most of us:
The Committee applauds the Institute’s leadership role in the OppNet initiative, which will support basic behavioral science throughout the NIH. The Committee encourages the NIGMS to support basic behavioral research to its fullest potential, and to incorporate basic behavioral training in its forthcoming training plan.
Nature News prepared a series of pieces about the loss of NIH champions in Congress, the threat posed by the deficit on science funding, and the potential ideological (and budgetary) challenges science could face after the mid-term elections. The loss of NIH champions such as Arlen Specter and David Obey, make the NIH appropriation situation even more precarious.
So what about everyone with scored Cycle 1 applications? For applications scored outside the FY10 payline, my advice is to start working on a resubmission (if an A0). For those near or just inside the FY10 payline, decisions will be a long way off in all likelihood, so you might want to discuss a resubmission strategy with your PO (who won’t know about funding either until an appropriation is passed). For those with clearly fundable scores and an encouraging word from your PO, notices will be slow trickling out, so please be patient. And for those of you looking to ICs with no prior payline benchmarks, please be patient with your PO … unless your score is obviously competitive or not, he or she will not know about funding strategies until the NIH appropriation passes, and the advice will likely be to plan on resubmission (assuming you still have your A1 left) or reworking the research for a (legal) new submission.
Update: Oof … from Bloomberg News:
Republicans taking control of the House next year would roll back funding to agencies including NIH to fiscal 2008 levels, according to a proposal by Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., who is likely to become the chamber’s majority leader. That would equate to a 4.3% , or $1.3 billion, cut to the agency’s $30.8 billion annual budget.
But then a glimmer of hope …
Some Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate may defy the budget cuts and defend NIH, Zeitzer said. One ally may be Sen.-elect Mark Kirk of Illinois, who now serves on the House Appropriations Committee, which controls discretionary spending. … Other potential Republican supporters include Reps. Brian Bilbray of California and Dave Reichert of Washington and Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama.